Three winter birds in Barcelona

Written by Lucy Brzoska

These three insectivores find winter feeding opportunities in Barcelona’s sheltered urban environment on the Mediterranean coast.  They also share an ability to go about their business undisturbed by human proximity.

White wagtails are a common sight on the pavements and in the parks, careering after their prey.  One theory for the constant tail wagging is that it gives an impression of alertness to potential predators.  This Wagtail, zigzagging along the paths in Pedralbes Park, wears a winter plumage, with white throat and chin, and a faint yellow tinge to the face.  In summer they look much more pied.

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By the end of the winter the Black redstarts who’ve moved into town become quite approachable, though finding corners where they can stay aloof from the bustle and noise.  In comparison with the Wagtails, they’re often to be seen static on a vantage point, sharply scanning the vicinity for food.  A beautiful male was sitting on one of the fig trees of Montjuic, smoky grey plumage fluffed out on a crisp cold day.

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This Chiffchaff was one of several who had gathered around the park pond, snatching insects while hovering over the water or scooping them off the surrounding wall.  Small and inconspicuous, one regularly comes to the balcony to pick off the tiny bugs that always seem to infest my plants.

chiffchaff-phylloscopus-collybita

Smug parakeets and resourceful magpies

Written by Lucy Brzoska

monk-parakeet-eats-bread

There was a strange crackling sound coming from above. The lime trees were filled with parakeets crunching on crusty pieces of bread, which they held securely in their claws.  They were releasing a fine shower of crumbs, which the pigeons below waddled after.

magpie-watching-parakeets

Magpies observed the scene, frustrated by their own innate caution, which won’t allow them to approach people scattering food for birds.  Instead, they resorted to chasing the smug-looking parakeets to make them drop their booty.

happy-monk-parakeet

But magpies have their own tricks.  They dare to disappear right inside the litter bins in their search for discarded sandwiches, throwing silver foil about.  They also keep a close eye on occupants of park benches.  The second someone gets up, they parachute down, tails held high, and quickly scour the area.

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A long, shimmering tail is a sign of a healthy bird and a desirable mate. Magpies with the most resplendent tails breed earlier and are more successful at rearing young, studies have found. Unusually, this magpie was using its tail as a handy prop while exploring holes in the wall.  In this case, a few worn and dishevelled feathers would only betray its owner’s resourcefulness.

magpie-explores-wall